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UNC vs. Duke: Why the Tar Heels have a better chance than you think

Don’t let the records or rosters fool you, North Carolina has a chance to win this game

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

You smell that? That’s right, it’s finally rivalry week. It’s finally Carolina vs. Duke week. Despite the first round between the two teams being on Saturday, as opposed to the traditional mid-week game, the hype is just as real.

By zero measurements have the Tar Heels had a good season. That’s just the facts about it. That doesn’t deter my feelings on the rivalry game at hand, it’s always #BeatDuke.

The path for the Tar Heels to beat Duke on Saturday seems complicated. After looking good in the two games before Cole Anthony returned from injury, they blew all their goodwill by losing to Boston College and losing a game they had plenty of chances to win at Florida State. If their tournament chances were on life support before, the ‘Noles reached for the plug on Monday night.

The Tar Heels will be without Anthony Harris, Sterling Manley and Brandon Robinson on Saturday, at least those are the only we know of right now. Things are often fluid with North Carolina’s injury report, so who knows who else could be out come game time.

But for all the hate Anthony has gotten since his return, he gives the Tar Heels something they wouldn’t have if he were out with Robinson: a chance to win the game. He is a flame thrower. When he gets hot, look out. If Anthony can summon the performance he had against Notre Dame early in the year, the whole dynamic of the match up.

Even if he struggles to play well, that doesn’t kill the Tar Heels’ chances of winning the game. This is a rivalry game. True rivalry games are always close, no matter who is in the two jerseys. There is just something about when these two teams that when they lace them up against each other, they mostly play competitive games.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof:

  • Since the 2010-2011 season, the average margin of victory for the winning team is 8 points.
  • In that span, the Tar Heels have played three games against Duke as an un-ranked team. In those games they are 1-2 with an average final score of 69 (Duke) to 65 (UNC). Duke was ranked in the top-five for all three of those games.
  • The Tar Heels have been the lower ranked team for 14 of the match-ups between the two schools. In the 14 games, UNC is 6-8 against Duke, with an average final score of 75.78(Duke) to 75.07(UNC).

So why do I bring you these stats? To show you that the little number beside the team’s name doesn’t matter in Carolina/Duke games. And the way college basketball has played out this season, it especially doesn’t matter now.

Roy Williams-coached teams always play hard against Duke, no matter who they have suiting up. With the Tar Heels playing at home, don’t sleep on them keeping this game close, or maybe squeaking it out.

Whether the North Carolina make a run for the tournament or not, beating Duke is the second goal to a national title every year. Let’s check one box on that list of goals on Saturday night.